It is estimated that one in five Canadians will experience a
mental health disability or addiction in their
lifetime.1 In light of this staggering statistic,
employers are often faced with the challenging task of identifying
and accommodating discrete mental health disabilities and
addictions in the workplace. In order to assist employers and other
responsible parties covered by the Ontario Human Rights
Code (the "Code") in grappling with this challenging
task, the Ontario Human Rights Commission recently issued a policy
entitled the Policy on preventing discrimination based on
mental health disabilities and addictions.
The new policy aims to provide practical guidance to employers
in Ontario on how to recognize, assess and accommodate human rights
issues related to mental health and addiction. This is an important
policy for employers as, under the Code, they have a positive
obligation to accommodate employees who are affected by such issues
and to ensure that the workplace is an accessible and inclusive
environment, free from discrimination and harassment.
The parts of the policy that are particularly noteworthy to
employers include a summary of the legal framework under the Code
(as well as other relevant statutes), an overview of the
employer's duty to accommodate and an explanation of undue
hardship as well as other important limits on the duty to
accommodate. The policy concludes with the following practical tips
for employers on how to be proactive and take steps to limit
exposure to potential human rights complaints:
i. Develop a plan to prevent and remove any barriers to
employment for people with mental health disabilities and
ii. Develop anti-harassment and anti-discrimination
policies, internal human rights procedures and accommodation
policies and procedures appropriate for people with mental health
disabilities and addictions.
iii. Provide ongoing education and human rights training to
staff to foster a culture that supports the values of the Code.
Although the policy is not legally binding on Ontario
decision-makers (e.g. the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal),
it will likely carry persuasive weight when determining whether
employers have met their legal obligations under the Code. As such,
it is important for employers to keep the policy in mind when
dealing with mental health issues and addictions in the workplace
and to remain vigilant in ensuring compliance with the Code.
For more information, a complete version of the policy can be
found on the Commission's website. In addition, we would be pleased to
respond to any question you may have about the policy.
1 Offord DR, et al. "One-year prevalence of
psychiatric disorder in Ontarians 15 to 64 years of age,"
Can J Psychiatry 1996; 41:559-563.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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